Masks: 15 Pages is a game released in 2018 by thecrimsondm (Hero: Adventure in Animal Kingdom, MLP: Trixie’s Adventure on the Rock Farm, One Pirate series).
The player controls an orphan named Pain (whose special attacks cost HP), searching a decrepit apartment building to try and collect 15 missing pages from a journal. When Pain ventures outside the building, another orphan named Hope (the healer of the group) begins to follow. Shortly thereafter an orphan named Bipolar (with buff & de-buff abilities) tags along.
Here I got stuck at a cul-de-sac where corpses trigger battles against Empty Voids outside a house containing a battle against an enemy called Love & Trust which spawns another enemy called Lies upon death. Love & Trust went down easily enough; but Lies can kill the healer in one hit, leaving me with no way to revive her, shortly thereafter making mince-meat of my entire party. Trying to fight an Empty Void resulted in a long tedious battle ending in slow party death once resources were depleted. There was nowhere else to go, and there was no sign of any other enemies to grind for money and XP.
After a few restores, I started the game over – sequence breaking, pinching pennies, and equipping my party as well as possible with the scant funds earned from the two preceding battles. Still no success. Luckily, the debug keys were not disabled in this game and I was able to “F7” my way to instant victory against enough Empty Voids to fund a full set of equipment for my entire party (plus a few consumables); I gained about 3 levels and a decent amount of HP in the process. I only fared marginally better in a battle against an Empty Void, even after cheating. I was able to beat one, but it took a full 8 minutes and used up all of my consumables and MP (levels 4-6).
So I F7’d my way through enough Empty Voids to buy 5 each of the consumable items (even though I have no idea what Candles do, except 1-2 dmg when I throw them?). At this point my party are levels 7-11. Heroes’ regular attacks now do 1-4 dmg against Lies (as opposed to a straightforward 1). Pain’s “2xScars” double hit is much improved at 6-8 damage (as opposed to 2), surpassing Bipolar’s “Startle” attack (which still does 6 damage consistently) as the best attack available; Hope’s “Hugs4AllU” party-heal is still the most useful skill (until the MP dries up). I used all 5 memories 3 patches, and 2 candles (they were doing more damage than Bipolar’s standard attack once his MP was gone); Hope was the only one with any MP left; and Pain died at the very end.
After this, I had a little trouble discerning where I was supposed to go next. Once I figured it out, subsequent battles went fine and I never needed to F7 again (possibly because I was artificially over-levelled). After picking up another orphan named Tranquility (who has a helpful multi-target attack), I entered a couple more buildings, murdered some more emotionally-themed bosses, entered a bonus area, and found all the journal pages but one. I have no idea where that eleventh page went.
One other oddity: There’s an option in the main menu called “Text Box 0” that does nothing.
The design of Masks is pretty lean in a good way. The game has no dialog, only narration. The game also has no random encounters – only bosses and a bit of semi-voluntary grinding. There aren’t too many options in any given attack menu and almost no redundancy; and that keeps characters differentiated. There aren’t too many complications of any kind; and that keeps the game focused.
The music is good. The ambient sounds set a spooky mood. The art is decent and suited to the content. Item and attack descriptions are appropriately creepy. It’s got themes and atmosphere. It’s even a complete adventure! However combat and rewards needs to be balanced and refined a lot more for this to be a playable game. Or maybe I misunderstood the battle system.
...spake The Lord Thy God.